By Andy Carroll, Exponent Philanthropy
One of Exponent Philanthropy’s goals in developing a portrait of leadership in small foundations is to identify funders that provide leadership. The Sunflower Foundation in Kansas is one such leader in our field.
According to Exponent Philanthropy’s research:
Small foundation leaders have passion and use their foundation’s freedom and access to become knowledgeable about issues they want to influence.
- Led by President and CEO Billie Hall, the Sunflower Foundation is dedicated to serving as a catalyst for improving the health of Kansans. The foundation regularly monitors relevant health legislation in the state capitol.
Small foundation leaders take time to analyze the knowledge they gather to identify solutions and strategies.
- The Sunflower Foundation was aware that proposed legislation to ban smoking in public places enjoyed public support, but had long been blocked by powerful interest groups. The law’s passage would have huge positive impacts on health and could save millions of dollars in care. Sunflower commissioned a poll revealing that 71 percent of Kansas voters favored a state ban.
The foundation considered its options and concluded that to break the impasse, it was necessary to organize a grassroots campaign to bring citizen support for a ban to lawmakers’ attention. With its ear to the ground, the foundation knew conditions were right for action.
Small foundation leaders develop a vision of the future and a roadmap for how to get there.
- The foundation developed a multiple-year plan to get the law passed. One strategy was to encourage citizens who supported the state’s Clean Air Kansas pledge to contact legislators. Another strategy was to create audio recordings of Kansans’ support for a smoking ban, and communicate the stories to targeted lawmakers—including by way of CDs given to legislators, to listen to on their long drives to home districts. The voices were often familiar ones of their own constituents.
Leaders act on their knowledge and vision to become catalysts for change.
- The foundation and its partners successfully carried out the grassroots advocacy campaign, which resulted in passage of the smoking ban.
The Sunflower Foundation leveraged a staff of five, plus about one million dollars, to mobilize public support for a law that has the potential to save thousands of lives. Their work is a great example of small foundation leadership, enacted through commitment, knowledge, insight, analysis, and bold action.
To read more, see A Foundation’s Win at Pubic Health Policy on Smoking.
As a public foundation, the Sunflower Foundation can engage in lobbying, subject to specific rules. Visit the Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy webpage for information on the legal aspects of foundation lobbying.